i-Team ace relishes baptism of fire at Perfs

Joe Clark. Picture: Sarah Standing (151998-6341)
Joe Clark. Picture: Sarah Standing (151998-6341)
Staurt O'Keefe, right, battles Christian Burgess for the ball during Pompey training. Pictures: Colin Farmery

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Joe Clark is under no illusions about the size of the task he faces at the Perfs Pedal on Sunday (11am).

The 18-year-old i-Team talent will make his senior debut in the 74km battle – locking horns with some of the best domestic racers over five ascents of Portsdown Hill.

BIKE Channel Canyon – Britain’s newest professional team – have named reigning champion Rory Townsend and 2012 winner Chris Opie in their line-up.

They also feature Rob Partridge – runner-up in 2013 and a veteran of 10 Tour of Britains – and last year’s second Mitchell Webber in a power-packed squad.

Added to them are a dangerous Nuun Sigma Sport team, which includes 2000 winner Justin Hoy, and other contenders such as former Raleigh GAC rider Steven Roach.

It all makes for a baptism of fire for Clark.

However, the Petersfield-based rider is relishing the opportunity after a positive pre-season.

He said: ‘I’m feeling pretty good and everything is in place for Sunday.

‘I have done a bit of everything over the winter.

‘I have done some cyclocross and a bit of mountain bike racing, just to switch it up a little bit and keep things interesting.

‘I know it is going to be a hard race, that’s for sure.

‘It is such a high standard, I’ll just have to go out there, give it everything and see what comes of it.’

Clark was a member of i-Team’s maiden junior race squad last season.

He raced the Junior CiCLE Classic and National Junior Road Race Championship in a campaign which saw him rise from a category three to category two licence.

Clark added: ‘It is my first year at Perfs, so I am not totally sure what to expect.

‘I will speak with Richard Pearman, our team manager, and get his views on it.

‘But I think a lot is going to depend on getting a good start and making sure I don’t let any gaps go early on.

‘The first climb and then along the top of Portsdown Hill are where the gaps will probably appear.

‘Hopefully I can get a finish – and fairly well up in the bunch. I would be happy with that.

‘I know a few other lads who have done it before.

‘It’s a tough race but I have prepared for it well.

‘I know the circuit, so there’s a bit of home advantage.

‘I have been able to ride it a few times and have done some decent sessions at race pace around there.

‘So hopefully that will count in my favour.’